Using material from Item A and elsewhere, assess the usefulness of functionalist approaches in explaining crime. (21 marks)
In reference to Item A functionalism is a consensus theory, stating that in society we are governed by a value consensus that we all share. This means we all are socialised into the shared values, beliefs and norms of society.
Functionalism uses this idea of value consensus to explain how crime is the result of not following this. It also explains how crime has functions in society and how it can play and integral part in society.
Functionalists believe that crime is the effect of inadequate socialisation. This is because we are all individuals with our own ...view middle of the document...
For instance, Davis argues that males use prostitution as a safety valve for their sexual frustrations without threatening the nuclear family. 4. Warning light is another function, in that if the crime rates of suicide and truancy go up it could indicate issues within society that need to be tackled.
However there have been some criticisms of this, first that it assumes there is a value consensus in society, yet Taylor argues that we are so multicultural and diverse that there is no one set of values and norms we all face, there are areas in the UK which are under Shiria law, so we a can’t even say that the law brings out cultural values together because some people don’t follow it directly. As well as this there are more criticisms in that it cannot be measure how much deviance is the right amount of deviance. For instance is there a numerical limit on the number of deviance before the police and other forces step in, in the same way there is a limit of how much your child can misbehave before the time out step can be enforced? If this assumption that there is a certain number of deviance that is functional is correct, then the implication is that police will not arrest or deal with a murder or sex crime if that crime is not the number which they can get to before they investigate. Crimes and deviant behaviours will be ignored which is arguably not functional for society. Also, functionalism tends to forget the main point about crime and deviance which is what function crime has on the victim. Arguably there is no function of crime the the victim, they have been involved in the bad end of a crime and they are left feeling isolated. In fact the function of crime is to isolate individuals not bring them together through boundary maintenance. However on the other hand it is useful in showing how crime is an integral part of society, whether that is right or wrong, it does explain what part it could play and why we let it happen in society.
Alternative to the functionalist perspective is Merton’s strain theory which agrues that the reason crime exists is not because of poor socialisation of individuals but instead, because of really great socialisation so much so that people feel a strain between what society wants them to achieve; riches, wealth and success; and what they can actually achieve legitimately. Merton argues that crime is the result of an individual feeling the strain between legitimate shared goals in society and the legitimate means to get them. He identifies 5 responses to this strain which he believes explains crime more so than Functionalists can; 1. conformity, accepting the goals and the means, 2. innovation, accepting the means but not the ways of getting there because of socio-economic factors which prevent legitimate means (education), 3. ritualism, meaning they accept the means but have given up on the goals- teachers who give on student success but still do their job, 4. retreatism where they reject the means and the...